BBC BLOGS - Magazine Monitor

Archives for May 20, 2012 - May 26, 2012

10 things we didn't know last week

17:08 UK time, Friday, 25 May 2012

Pancake stack

Snippets from the week's news, sliced, diced and processed for your convenience.

1. Beetles like living near street lights.
More details

2. The US state of Kansas is actually flatter than a pancake.
More details (New York Times)

3. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has an 80-inch tablet in his office.
More details (Wired)

4. David Cameron has a tennis machine called Clegger.
More details (The Guardian)

5. On a French keyboard you have to press the shift key to get a full stop.
More details (The Financial Times)

6. Beijing has a "two flies" rule in its public toilets.
More details (The Times)

7. A male Arabian leopard needs 100 square kilometres to survive.
More details

8. The Queen wears an extra shoulder pad on one side.
More details (The Daily Telegraph)

9. Space has been commercialised.
More details (Wired)

10. Spaghetti Junction cost £10m to build but its annual maintenance budget is roughly £7m a year.
More details (ITV)

Seen a thing? Tell @BBC_magazine on Twitter using the hashtag #thingIdidntknowlastweek

Your Letters

16:28 UK time, Friday, 25 May 2012

Nominative determination alert.
James, Blackwater, UK

"She can wear a tiara with ease and she doesn't look vulgar". Surely, you meant a crown?
R.G, Watford, Herts

Can we please have a moratorium on nominative determinism? We get it. Some, in fact quite a lot of, people have names that fit what they do. Let's move on. See also: letters that end with coat getting or hilarious variations thereon. Call me a party pooper if you will.
Richard, Aberdeen, UK

Re censorship: an amusing quip the other day when someone said they were doing a movie about tea and that it wouldn't be PG. Time for a cuppa or something stronger.
Tim McMahon, Martos/Spain

Basil Long (Thursday's letters) says there is a difference between working long and working hard.
Can I point out there is a difference in working efficiently and both of the above!
Nigel, Newbury

Paper Monitor

14:15 UK time, Friday, 25 May 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Paper Monitor can't help but be struck by a couple of vicar stories that have hit headlines beyond parish papers.

First up, the Daily Telegraph reports a vicar is under investigation after swearing and mocking religious events on social media websites.

It says the Rev Canon Dr Paul Shackerley, of Doncaster minister, joked that "sin is such fun" on Facebook. Some of his other more publishable comments include him boasting about doing no work and getting excited about the "fizz of tonic in [his] gin beckoning" (Paper Monitor likes the cut of his jib on this point, at the very least). Another status update reads:

"Alas, I have religion tomorrow. At least I'm not preaching this week."

According to the paper, extracts prompted a letter of complaint to church leaders about the "abhorrent" language and argued the vicar was unfit to serve the minister or people of Doncaster.

What makes the story slightly more strange is Dr Shackerley spoke about the pitfalls of posting on the internet in a newsletter just last month. So much for practising what you preach.

The Daily Mail has another tale, this time from a stunned congregation at St Helen's church in Ipswich, excited at the prospect of a major announcement from their bishop at a Sunday service.

Instead, the paper says, they were told their married vicar, Michael Tillett, had resigned after "having an affair with one of his flock".

The couple made a statement saying their love was no longer something they "could no longer deny".

Now Paper Monitor is not one for scandal or gossip, but given today's coverage, it is wondering whether it should start searching through parish newsletters for stories.

Caption Competition

13:32 UK time, Friday, 25 May 2012


It's the Caption Competition.

The competition is now closed. Full rules can be seen here [PDF].

This week drummers perform on stage during the opening ceremony of the 20th Life Ball in Vienna.

Thanks to all who entered. The prize of a small amount of kudos to the following:

6. Catherine O wrote:
Ich bin der Feuerteufel

5. Valerie Ganne wrote:
Many Hans make light work

4. RampagingRabbit wrote:
Burns Night

3. eattherich wrote:
Disco Inferno - Unplugged

2. Alien Avenger wrote:
We'll just have to keep performing until Earth and Wind arrive

1. SkarloeyLine wrote:
Butane and the Beat

Your Letters

16:12 UK time, Thursday, 24 May 2012

Can I just say, there is a vast difference between working long, and working hard.
Basil Long, Nottingham

You're kidding me. That fluffy green bird with the massive forehead's got a literary prize named after it?
Sue, London

Nominative determinism alert - a Mr Connery who has worked as a stuntman on a Bond film?
Tommy Scragend, Wigan

Thanks to Rob Falconer (Wednesday letters) for confirming the long-suspected existence of metric time. Explains how the Germans get to the sun-beds.
Eddie, Crawley UK

An article about censorship with words missing. Now Miss Morrisette, that's ironic!
Sara, Napanee, Canada

Paper Monitor

12:30 UK time, Thursday, 24 May 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.
Forget news. Today's mission is to find the archetypal feature across the British tabloid firmament.

And Paper Monitor is old skool in its definition of tabloid. They are red top, loud, brash with their own distinctive hang ups, hobby horses and desires. Oh, and at the moment lots of bikinis. But as Paper Monitor's French cousin would say "revenons a nos moutons".

The Daily Express is tackling the big question. "Must EVERYTHING be done online these days?" it asks over a whole page. Next week, watch out for its piece on why the invention of the wheel was overrated, are trains making us too busy, and whether fire should be handed back to the gods.

Readers needing light relief should turn to the Sun, which weighs into the Eurozone crisis in its own inimitable way. "Erogenous Eurozones" profiles the female politicians whose looks offer a "potential stimulus for growth". A little bit of politics goes a long way when fleshed out, as it were.

There's a cluster bomb of puns - "you must have lost your marbles" if you can't appreciate the charms of Greek MP Eva Kaili, the paper says.
"With assets like Eva, 33, the Greeks seem less likely to make a drachma out of a crisis."

The Daily Mail finds a new angle on the Chelsea Flower show. "Forget the flowers, the most exotic display at Chelsea is the oligarchs, the trophy wives and the bankers buzzing round them like bumblebees." The piece is headlined the Chelski Power Show, but try as Paper Monitor might, no Russian is identified by name in the piece.

The Daily Star runs two pages on Euro 2012. It's the age-old mix of football and sex. The paper is worried that England's training base won't be ready on time, although the evidence for this seems to be that the goalposts haven't been erected yet.

On the opposite page is the naked top half of a Femen activist, a group of women planning to disrupt the footie to protest about sexual exploitation.

"Our God is woman, our mission is protest, our weapons are bare breasts," goes the group's motto. The Star uses the headline "We'll bare boobs at England fans!"

Paper Monitor has become confused - who is exploiting whom? Time for a lie down.

Your Letters

14:40 UK time, Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Reading about China's decision to limit public toilets to two flies, I remembered seeing one of these modern public conveniences in Chalon-sur-Saone in France. The legend said, in French, that you had to leave within 15 minutes as the whole toilet would then be "hosed down". Which is fine, except that the English translation said 20 minutes.
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

I'm torn between a gag about "Button or Zip?" and some clever question about how they would get them to queue up. Any advice? (What's that - do neither? OK, I give up!)
Colin Main, Berkhamsted, UK

From the BBC news front page this morning, this headline: "Chronic pain under-treated - NICE." I don't think that's very nice at all! I'll get my aspirin.
Paul Morris, Cheriton Fitzpaine, Devon

Many congratulations to the players who have qualified for the GB Olympic Table Tennis squad. Their home towns of Middlesborough, Milton Keynes, Chesterfield, Chertsey, Leamington Spa and China/Northern Ireland left me wondering if we haven't perhaps redrawn national boundaries a little in order to maximise medals? While we're at it, we couldn't get Jamaica into Wales could we?
Richard Martin, Doncaster, UK/China

Phil (Tuesday's letters) - how very considerate of you. I presume to avoid overly disturbing Monitorites, you signed off very quietly.
Shiz, Cheshire, UK

Paper Monitor

11:54 UK time, Wednesday, 23 May 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

What's the right thing for a publication to do when stories get all sweary?

Do they include the sweary words as they were sworn, and thus risk startling the gentler reader?

Or do they draw a chaste veil over the exact horror of the words in question, by using initial letters and an appropriate number of asterisks (thus giving crossword solvers extra practice.... "a six-letter adjective beginning with c?")

This approach risks irritating people who expect their publication to communicate with them like adults, not like Mary Poppins.

If only Malcolm Tucker were to be called before the Leveson Inquiry, we'd see the whole gamut of treatments.

For sake of reference, the publication you are currently reading generally uses swear words in full, without asterisks or dashes, but only when the word is absolutely central to the story. We won't set off F-bombs lightly.

It all gets a bit trickier though when the story in question is regarding censorship, particularly if there's a whiff that someone is being prudish. Enter, today's Times.

Ken Loach's new film, hotly tipped in Cannes, sounds like it's full of colourful Glaswegian demotic. But he has told the paper that the BBFC, the UK's film classification body, will not give it a 15 certificate unless he moderates his language.

Paper Monitor feels entitled to quote this passage, as is, including asterisks, because this is how the Times is reporting it.

"'I think we were allowed seven c***s,' Loach said. 'But only two of them could be aggressive c***s.' His producer Rebecca O'Brien chipped in: 'We were allowed to keep in all the non-aggressive c***s. I think we just sort of covered up the other c***s.'"

And yet elsewhere in today's paper readers are exposed to tales of beheadings, mutilation, scalpings, and electric shock torture. And a photograph in one of the paper's digital editions showing a man prising his own eyeball out of his face in a display of religious piety.

Still, at least there's no actual swearing.

Finally, special mention for the intriguing story on the front page of today's Daily Telegraph reporting the surprising rise in sales of fountain pens. Now where has one seen that before?

Your Letters

17:00 UK time, Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Rob, you can't just relight the torch! The whole point is that it has to be continually burning. They keep spares, lit from the same flame, for this very eventuality. There is some good information here.
Caroline Brown, Rochester UK

Rob, I suppose they could have just used a box of matches. But I'm guessing that would somehow negate the whole Olympia / Greek Godess palaver that went on to light it in the first place. I'll get my flame retardent anorak...
Shiz, Cheshire, UK

I suppose they have their plaice. I'll get me cod.
Angus Gafraidh, London

Nominative determinism strikes again! I note from recent by-lines in my morning paper that the Aberdeen-based Press & Journal has a reporter called Shona Gossip.
Mike George, Portgordon, Scotland

If locked room mysteries are so popular, why are almost all of John Dickson Carr's works out-of-print? (which makes them hellish expensive on eBay!). My vote for the all time great would be Dickson Carr's The Case of the Constant Suicides.
James, Stockport

The Hacienda rave 'finished at midnight to avoid overly disturbing residents'. Very rock n roll...
Phil, Oxford

Paper Monitor

12:23 UK time, Tuesday, 22 May 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Today's papers could be made in Chelsea. There's something for everyone - the departure of Drogba, the arrival of Titchmarsh. Pictures of bleary eyed, victorious football stars on the one hand, the Queen smiling amongst the roses, on the other.

Yes it's that great play-off: Chelsea's European Cup winners versus the Chelsea Flower Show. It's a Venn diagram without a lot of crossover, Paper Monitor surmises. Most of the news sections take a punt - football or flowers?

No prizes for guessing where the Daily Star places its X. "Chelsea's 30-hour bender!" runs a headline on the front page next to a picture of "worse for wear" Frank Lampard.

Inside a double-page spread chronicles the "mammoth" drinking session, involving players, Wags and assorted hangers on. Oh and Rihanna of course, who had helpfully tweeted a pic of herself with Chelsea's match winner Didier Drogba.

The Daily Express goes for the other tribe. Paper Monitor suspects Amanda Holden might have something to do with it. "100 degree F Summer on Way...But Amanda is already sizzling at Chelsea Flower Show. See Page 3".

Inside the celebs seem to take precedence over the plants.There's Cliff Richard, Jerry Hall, Roger Daltrey and Anneka Rice. With la Holden, is this the dream dinner party list for Express readers?

The Daily Mail gives the plants more of a look-in, with a huge picture of the red-coated Chelsea pensioners manning a pyramid made out of scaffolding, draped with trees and climbing plants.

But in case anyone is getting bored, there's a celebrity angle - it is designed by Diarmuid Gavin. Oh and the Queen "caused a fashion stir" the paper reveals by, erm, "choosing a hairnet rather than a hat."

A Daily Telegraph leader attempts to put the football in its place. "Chelsea has been much in the news lately; but its association for many people lies less with its triumphant football team than with the annual Royal Horticultural Society flower show."

The freak weather has "tested the patience and ingenuity" of the contributors to the limit, it continues. But here is a pursuit that is part of the nation's psyche - "climate, temperament and love of tradition combine to make the British natural gardeners."

And lest we forget, we're also pretty handy at the 30-hour bender.

Your Letters

16:55 UK time, Monday, 21 May 2012

I can't believe that Miles Jupp missed the classic Murder in the Rue Morgue - perhaps the first locked room mystery
Cath, Cambs

"A replacement was brought out from the convoy of vehicles." The mind boggles. Is there a van full of pre-lit burning torches? Why not just relight the one that went out? Or was a box of matches deemed a bit too low-tech?
Rob, London, UK

I wrote recently about my favourite headline on the BBC website. It's only a few days later, but already it's been replaced in my affections by: Balls warns of cuts 'catastrophe'
Rob Falconer, Llandough, Wales

They were probably waiting until they could afford it.
Ralph, Cumbria

Hmmm. Where's The Count of Muppets fame when you need him?
Candace, New Jersey, US

Paper Monitor

13:53 UK time, Monday, 21 May 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

Thousands of people have been enjoying the spectacle of the 8000-mile Olympic torch relay, so it is no surprise to learn that a number of torchbearers have put their gold-coloured torches up for sale on a popular online auction site.

Here, charity worker and community gardener Sarah Milner Simonds explains to BBC Breakfast why she hopes to sell her torch.

The Mirror, which describes the sellers as "cashing in on their once-in-a-lifetime privilege" suggests that some might have received false bids from people angered by the sales.

The Timeshas penned a leader on the subject headlined "The Price of Competition":

"The Olympic spirit is all about competition but not really about price competition. These are difficult economic times and the profit on offer must be attractive to many of the bearers of the Olympic Flame. But if they hold on to the souvenir, surely the memory of the day they took part in the Olympic ceremonies will gather interest over time, much more so that the short-term profit realised by an online transaction."

Writing in the same paper, Matthew Syed admits that he had a bit of a "chuckle" when he heard about people selling their torches, although he describes it as "tacky" and "rather ungrateful". But he points the finger at the IOC, arguing that the symbolism has little to do with ancient Greece but is rather something that is pursued with gusto by the IOC's commercial unit to make money. "By continuing to fabricate the notion that the torch connects ancient and modern," he writes, "the IOC has helped to create a brand measured in the billions of dollars."

He concludes:

"The torch relay is a marketing wheeze, not some quasi-religious ceremony. So let's not get too sanctimonious about those who try to sell the flaming thing on eBay."

Londoner David Stanley writing in the Daily Telegraph's letters page is also concerned about potential Olympic profiteering.

Mr Stanley, along with his children, had been hoping to collect the 29 different Olympic 50-pence pieces that were released by the Royal Mint last year. He writes that so far, he has only received one - a coin illustrating the sport of shooting - in his change. "Funnily enough, they are available on websites for between six and 10 times their monetary value," he writes.

Paper Monitor recalls neighbourhood kids returning from school recently clutching commemorative coins that had been handed to each pupil. One told Paper Monitor that his might be worth a bit more than 50p one day.

Your humble columnist will now be checking eBay to see if said lad is seeking to top up his pocket money.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.